Billionaires' Brides of Convenience, Book 1
I’m used to cleaning up after my boss, Hollywood superstar and all-around bad boy Ryder Pryce-Reed. Nothing can shock me now — not the countless “humped and dumped” women or the wreckage left in the wake of his wild ways — until he asks me to marry him…
…for a year.
He says it’s strictly so he can claim his beloved grandfather’s painting, but I know there’s more. There’s always more with Ryder.
My instincts say no, but he’s offering to take care of the baby in my womb. Since my self-centered ex isn’t going to play the father, I say yes, while steeling my heart. I can’t afford to fall for a man who only wants me for a year.
But how can I resist the sexiest man alive when he turns on his formidable charm to give everyone a good show? And how does a simple girl like me deal with the spotlight as his fiancée…or the scandal that explodes in our faces?
Note: This book contains a cliffhanger ending.
Three Rules for Those Working for Ryder Reed
One. Don’t be surprised by anything. This is Hollywood.
Two. Don’t ask favors from the boss. You aren’t the only one with friends who are trying to break into acting.
Three. Don’t fall for him.
The immaculate hall is shaking with music as I follow the hotel manager and security personnel in crisp suits. It’s after one in the morning, but when my job calls, I roll out of my bed and put on my work clothes.
This time, I need to save my boss from himself.
The manager slides his keycard over the electronic lock. “After you, Ms. Johnson.”
As soon as I open the door, my skull throbs to the beat of the incredibly loud music. I’m surprised my eardrums don’t explode.
It’s dim inside, but I can make out women, either barely dressed or altogether nude, gyrating everywhere. If they think they can get anything even remotely long term out of Ryder, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and baddest boys, they should give up now. Ryder doesn’t have relationships. He has the H&D—the Humped and Dumped.
Yeah. Some reporter who considers himself a lot wittier than he is coined that term for the groupies Ryder allegedly slept with.
I sniff. The suite smells like booze, sweat and perfume.
“Dear God, or whatever being is looking out for me, don’t let it be Ryder smoking pot,” I mutter under my breath.
And no hard drugs. Ryder doesn’t have a history of doing drugs, but you never know. After all, it is Hollywood…and he has too much money and too much time on his hands these days.
And he’s looking for an excuse—any excuse—not to have to travel tomorrow.
I flip the light switch on, prompting more than a few people to suddenly shield their eyes, and search for the source of the music. I can’t even hear myself think in this noise. Finally, I spot the plug and pull it out. The music dies, thank god, even as groans and curses come my way.
“Turn that back on, you bitch!” one of the women yells.
“Shut up before I call the cops on all of you,” I say in my no nonsense voice. I turn to the hotel manager and his security team. “Can you get the women out of here? I’ll deal with Ryder.”
The security detail, all guys, look over the heaving sea of scantily clad female flesh and nod. At least someone will have some fun tonight.
The suite’s a mess. The floor is littered with the remains of gilt crackers, empty bottles of all types of liquor, and something black and slimy—probably caviar. The four vases sit empty, their flowers strewn everywhere. One of the bare-bottomed women is holding a lily in her butt crack.
There are a couple of prone and naked women on the grand piano in the corner with their eyes glazed over, and several others spread all over the living room area. They’re a sorry sight in the light, hair hanging down, and mascara and eyeliner smudged.
Almost all of them are of a type—young, tall, skinny with extra large breasts, thanks to implants. Their hair probably isn’t real either. I spot a few dark roots.
Breathing shallowly through my mouth, I walk purposefully into the bedroom. More women on the bed. One of them offers me a joint with a stupid grin. I roll my head to unkink the tension in my shoulders and neck and charge into the giant master bathroom, which has a spectacular view of L.A. It also comes with a sparkling marble double-vanity—or at least it used to sparkle—and a hot tub. There are five women in the tub along with Ryder Pryce-Reed.
Or Ryder Reed, if you only know him through his movies.
People assume Ryder is extraordinarily photogenic. There has never been a bad picture of him. If god had any sense of fairness, Ryder would be un-photogenic. Unfortunately, he isn’t. The world is just like that.
His face has the cleanest and sharpest lines I’ve ever seen. Articles claim those are the Pryce traits he inherited from his mother, and it’s probably true. His father, Julian Reed, is blond and of unremarkable stature, while Ryder has towering height, thick dark hair and a broad, solid frame covered with a good dollop of muscles.
He waves. His wide, white smile is so perfect and handsome, it’s almost enough to make me forget that his antics have dragged me out of bed at this godforsaken hour. “Babe!”
He rarely calls me by my given name. It’s always “babe” or “doll” or some such…which would get ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine percent of male bosses in trouble for sexual harassment. But not Ryder. He can get away with anything. If there’s even one female juror, he will be found not guilty.
Then there’s his voice. It caresses your most sensitive parts and makes your breath catch. When I first started working for him, I thought he was doing it on purpose. Now I know it’s just part of him.
I clear my throat. It’s ridiculous he still has any effect on me, but when you’re Ryder Reed, you have that effect on every female with a pulse. I know what his agent Mira Brasson will do if she finds out I’m attracted to him—fire me on the spot. She warned me on my first day.
There are at least ten empty bottles of champagne around the tub. The women probably helped, but I guarantee he drank most of it. He drinks like a very, very large and thirsty fish. Either his liver is about to explode or it’s made of titanium.
I grab a robe from the closet and hold it out, my face averted. “Get out of the water.”
“Why? Plenty of room for you too.”
“No! She’s so fat!” one of the women whines.
He gives her the searchlight-intensity smile. “I like ’em soft and curvy.”
“C’mon Ryder. Let’s go.” When he doesn’t move, I grit my teeth. The women are pissing me off; they’re clinging to him like freaking octopuses, running their hands along his body and rubbing their breasts all over him. He’s practically pinned in the tub by silicon. “You know you have to go to your cousin’s wedding tomorrow for the rehearsal dinner.” I hate the way I sound, like a curfew enforcer. “You can’t miss it. Your mother’s going to be there.”
Even drunk, the mention of his mother makes his face scrunch. “Jus’ had to ruin the moment.” He pushes to his feet, then almost loses his balance.
I catch him before he falls and breaks his face. It would serve him right, but it’s my job to keep him safe, among other things.
He’s extremely heavy. And extra warm from the hot water.
“You know you’re not supposed to drink and get in a hot tub, right?” I mutter under my breath as I labor to keep him upright.
I resolutely keep my eyes on his face, but I can feel the every hard line and plane of his body flush against mine even through my clothes, which are currently getting wet and plastering themselves to my skin. My mouth dries. I’ve been working for him for four years, but I’ve never had him against me like this before. And no matter how annoyed I am with him, I would have to be dead to not feel anything when the Sexiest Man Alive—multiple-time winner—is hanging onto me…even if he is currently drunk.
The women from the tub reach out and try to pull him back. I glare at them, but they are either too drunk or too intent on him to pay any attention. Maintaining balance suddenly becomes a lot more difficult.
“Hey!” I yell.
Then two of them actually pull me into the tub, apparently deciding that may be the easiest way to free Ryder. I crash head-first into the water. The roaring of the jets is deafening.
I try to get up, but a hand pushes my head down. I claw at the person, but it’s no use.
Suddenly the hand vanishes, and I sit up, gulping in air. I rub my face to get the water out of my eyes. Ryder is perched on the side of the tub, giving the women a dark smoldering glare. “No rough play, I said,” he mutters, his words slurred. He wags a finger at them like naughty children, then bursts out laughing, almost losing his balance again from some hilarity only he can appreciate.
For god’s sake. If he slips this time, he’s on his own.
One of my pumps is floating in the sudsy water. I grab it and get out before the psychos in the tub think of any other crazy thing. My shoes are ruined, but I’ll worry about that later. First things first.
I forcibly drag Ryder away while the women hurl insults, most of them having to do with me being greedy and fat. I let their invective roll over me. Not like it’s the first time, and I just don’t have the time to deal with them in addition to Ryder right now. My goal is to take him home without the pap getting a shot for the scandal rags.
I consider leaving him on the bed, but there are women there too. Security apparently hasn’t gotten rid of all of them yet; I can still hear angry screeches in the living room. Only one armchair is empty, so I deposit him in it. “Don’t move!”
He waves me away. Probably too drunk to move. His complexion’s slightly pale and sallow with a tinge of green. Alcohol’s dulled his eyes, and his wet hair is sticking out at odd angles.
Anyone else, and the sight would be pathetic. But Ryder somehow still manages to look hot. I swear his mother sacrificed an entire African country of goats when he was born.
I, of course, look like some kind of waterlogged rodent. Ugh. The carpet’s soaked beneath my feet. I gaze up at the ceiling for patience.
I march back into the bathroom, ignore the group of inebriated tub strumpets, grab a couple of fluffy white towels, march back out and toss one his way. “Dry off and get dressed. You’re going home.” I run a towel all over myself, but it’s no use. I need a new set of clothes, but I’m not going to get it right now.
“I have a late checkout. Two p.m.,” Ryder says.
“You are not staying here until two p.m.”
“I haven’t even banged them yet.” He gestures in the general direction of the women on the bed. One of them spreads her legs. Outside is cursing and grunting, and women whining about party poopers.
I cross my arms. “Shouldn’t have wasted your time drinking then, should you?” The hotel informed me he checked in at eleven. He was probably drunk at that time, too.
“I don’t wanna dry.” He smiles at me goofily. “You do it.”
My mouth tight, I shove him into a robe without bothering to dry him. He doesn’t resist.
Once he’s decently covered, I retrieve his clothes and dump them into a white plastic laundry bag with the hotel logo. Then I toss a towel over his head to obscure his face and take him to the service elevator. He stands mutely on the way down, looking like some kind of punchy boxer after losing a fight.
Some of the hotel staff are waiting for us on the ground level. Before we leave, I instruct them to send Ryder’s things to the office, settle his account on the AmEx and forward me the invoice within thirty days. I assure them photos won’t be necessary; I’ve seen the damage myself. If the staff notices my wet rat look, they didn’t let it show.
Once that’s done, I start leading Ryder to the Mercedes waiting outside.
“Wait, my car,” Ryder says. He loves his Ferrari.
“I’ll have it brought to the house tomorrow. You know you can’t drive.”
“Not that drunk.”
“Ryder, if you can hop on one foot from here to the back exit without stumbling, sure. But you know you can’t.”
He goes on one foot. Then promptly stumbles and puts the other foot down before he can even jump.
The driver’s waiting for us. I push Ryder inside. It’s not easy to maneuver him drunk, but I manage. I’ve had lots of practice.
I sit down next to him and shut the door. If I leave now, he’ll end up in another hotel suite or a club. It doesn’t matter that he isn’t even dressed. This town worships fame and money, and he has plenty of both.
The air conditioning inside the car blows over me, and I shiver. My reaction annoys me further. If I weren’t soaked, the temperature would be perfect.
“We’re going home,” I say in my most stern “don’t argue with me, boss” voice. “You’re going to sleep this off. And you will go to the rehearsal dinner tomorrow.”
“Don’t want to,” he mutters.
“Would you rather attend your father’s wedding?” Ryder’s sexagenarian father is marrying—for the sixth time, and to a woman who is barely twenty—and there seems to be an epidemic of matrimony in the family because it’s on the same weekend as his cousin’s ceremony. “It’s not too late to make the travel arrangements.”
“Hell no.” Ryder moans theatrically. “Hey, maybe I’ll be too hung over to go to either of ’em.”
“Then I’ll have a driver take you. Don’t worry.”